The caper is a shrubby deciduous plant, 3 to 5 feet high, native to the Mediterranean area.
It is grown for its flower buds, which are pickled or brined as a condiment.
It is used mainly in Europe and grown mostly in Africa and Spain and Italy, allthough crop information for other parts of Africa, Greece and the Middle East are not readily available.
C. sodala, a related caper known as timbuctoo, is grown in northern Africa and C. corymbifera is grown in South Africa.
Unopened flower buds are hand harvested during the summer, often daily, as smallest buds are most valuable. A mature plant can produce 8-9 kg of fresh buds a year.
Fresh buds do not have the capers signature taste until processed by pickling or brining.
Seed germination and seedling growth is slow, so plants are generally propagated by cuttings taken February to April.
Plants will live 20 to 30 years if properly pruned and if protected from temperatures less than 18 degrees F.
One-year-old rooted cuttings are commonly used. During the first year bud production is low, but by the fourth year production reaches full potential.
Annual applications of about 100kg/ha of a mixed fertilizer are recommended, and the plant should not be subject to moisture stress but requires well drained soil.
Plants go dormant in the fall and pruning is best then.
Tender new shoots in spring are sometimes harvested as an asparagus-like vegetable, but taking too many shoots will hurt the bud supply.
Plants are relatively free of disease and insect pests.
Pacific Tree Farms
Chula Vista California 619-422-2400
- sells caper plants in containers
PO Box 26
ON LOC 1AO
- sells seeds
Park Seed Company
Greenwood South Carolina 29647-0001
- sells seeds
San Marcos Growers (Wholesale inquiries only)
P.O. Box 6827
Santa Barbara, CA 93160
Phone, Fax and E-mail:
The Croft, Sutton
Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 1PL
Tel: 44 (0)1789 869315
Fax: 44 (0)1789 869400
Post-Harvest and Packing
Preserve in vinegar or under layers of salt in a jar.